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About R J Hillhouse

  • Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

    A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

    Her controversial work has twice elicited a formal response by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence--the only times that office has ever publicly responded to the writings of a private citizen.

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  • Article by Dr. Hillhouse"Outsourcing National Intelligence The Nation: Private Corporations Are Now Able To Insert Their Agendas Into President's Briefings"

    "The investigative blogger RJ Hillhouse...regularly breaks news on the clandestine world of private contractors and US intelligence..."
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    Link to transcript of nationally syndicated TV interview wtih Dr. Hillhouse and streaming video

    Article by Dr. Hillhouse breaking the story on contractor involvement in the President's Daily Brief
    "Outsourcing Intelligence"

    Dr. Hillhouse's controversial opinion piece that was one of the most emailed and blogged about on the Washington Post website: "Who Runs the CIA?"

    The Associate Director of National Intelligence responds to Dr. Hillhouse's WaPo piece and Dr. Hillhouse responds by pointing out how we've been hearing these same tired excuses for Intelligence Community failings for years.

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    UPI analysis piece on Dr. Hillhouse's reverse-engineering of the national intelligence budget

    "Author R. J. Hillhouse... runs an unusual blog on security and intelligence called The Spy Who Billed Me. She is both skeptical and sympathetic toward private military contractors." --The New York Times

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« Update: DNI Study on Outsourcing Scrubbed | Main | Tenet Mania »

April 26, 2007

Exclusive Interview: Blackwater USA's President Gary Jackson

Bw_2 Blackwater USA is one of the world's largest private military corporations, offering a wide array of security services, including, but not limited to training for law enforcement and military personnel, professional security details protecting against military-level threats, logistical support, as well as peacekeeping and stability operations.   In military circles, Blackwater has a reputation for excellence, reliability and strong management.  To the rest of the world, Blackwater is an enigma.

The company was founded by US Navy SEALs and SEAL culture has strongly influenced Blackwater's corporate culture; this influence includes not only a strong sense of patriotism, but also discretion.  Its executives rarely talk to the press, so I am particularly delighted to present an exclusive interview with Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA. 


Hillhouse:  Over the past four years, there’s been a quiet revolution in how America fights her enemies and Blackwater USA is the vanguard of this transformation, but, out of necessity, it’s all happened very fast and with little planning.  I’ve heard a lot of stories about the early days in Iraq and what seat-of-the pants operations all the private military corporations were while everyone was doing his best to figure things out as he went along.  What lessons have you learned over the past four years?  How has the Blackwater organization changed?

Jackson:  There has been a lot of talk about a revolution in military affairs.  While change has been a lot more visible the last few years, it was well underway before 9/11 and likely started with the end of the Cold War.  To call Blackwater the vanguard of the transformation is overstating our role. The real vanguards are the military and civilian professionals who ensure our national security system is best prepared to protect our country. 

As far as operational challenges, any organization operating in a region of conflict, especially one as dynamic and challenging as the Middle East , adjusts their tactics and procedures as they learn more about the intricacies of their environment and as that environment changes.  Blackwater has been no different in that regard. 

As far as how we’ve changed, obviously providing private security services is a much larger segment of our business than it was four years ago.  We’ve also diversified into other areas, such as logistics services and manufacturing.  But the important thing to remember about Blackwater is that our roots and our strength lie in our military and law enforcement training—we were doing that long before we were asked to form security teams, and it will be a critical part of our future.  We’re the only private security company that has made the kind of investment required for large-scale training of federal and local authorities, and we’re continuing to expand that support with new facilities—one in Illinois for law enforcement training, and one in California for military and law enforcement training.  Those initiatives have no connection to our private security work, there’s just a critical shortage of first-class training facilities for those who serve our country in uniform.


Hillhouse:  The bulk of your contracts are with the US government, but you also offer your services to private and foreign interests, subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR.)  How do you determine who you will take on as a client?  Have you ever turned any down?

Jackson:  Our first commitment is to supporting the national security and foreign policies of the United States.  We won’t entertain any client that would conflict with that.  Blackwater has turned down many opportunities for work.  And you bring up a good point with ITAR, which is part of the US system of export control laws.  Put simply, no US Company or citizen can supply military- or police-type goods or services to foreign persons without a license from the US Department of State or Department of Commerce—and they certainly aren’t going to grant a license involving an unfriendly nation. 


Hillhouse:  Author Jeremy Scahill has called Blackwater’s founder a “Christian supremacist” and has claimed that he has created, “a private army to defend Christendom around the world against secularists.”  Does Blackwater employ chaplains like the regular military?  If so, what is their role and what prompted you to add this position?

Jackson:  First, we have no private army.  What we do have is a team of military and law enforcement veterans and other motivated, capable Americans who protect diplomats, provide training, and offer logistic services, and we do those things in support of friendly nation peace operations around the world, including support of some of our Muslim allies.  While I hesitate to discuss his personal life, Mr. Prince is a practicing Roman Catholic and I assure you is no radical.  His views, which others have inflated to serve their own agendas, are his own and he makes no effort to force them on anyone at Blackwater.  We have people of many faiths at Blackwater.  Just like many police departments or military units, we do have a chaplain on staff, Father Pucciarelli.  He is the former Chaplain of the Marine Corps with more than 30 years of service.  He offers non-denominational services and counseling for our people when they request or need it.  His experience with counseling active-duty service members who served in conflict perfectly fits with our culture.  He adds tremendous value and is an indispensable resource for us.


Hillhouse:  How involved is Erik Prince in the day to day business of Blackwater USA?   What is his current role with the company, in practical terms?

Jackson:  As the founder and CEO of Blackwater, Mr. Prince is as involved in the business as any CEO would be.


Hillhouse:  Does Blackwater hire individuals who are openly gay?

Jackson:  To be frank, I really don’t care whether a given employee is gay.  It doesn’t really have much to do with whether an individual can accomplish their job, and that’s our concern.


Hillhouse:  Blackwater personnel with security clearances are required to swear an oath to the US Constitution, just as US military officers do.   Do Third Country Nationals (TCN) swear any oaths?  How are they educated about the values and ethics they are supposed to uphold?

Actually, the oath to our Constitution, as far as Blackwater is concerned, is not limited to the security clearance context.  Legally we can’t require anyone to swear the oath, but nearly everyone volunteers to do so.  As far as the Third-Country Nationals that we are required by USG contract to use, we can’t ask them to swear the same oath, but all of Blackwater’s deploying professionals, both US and TCN, undergo extensive training in core values, leadership, and human rights before they deploy.  Each of them is issued a copy of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their native language to carry with them and remind them of their commitment to legal, moral, and ethical standards.


Hillhouse: Blackwater USA has an unprecedented concentration of military expertise and force in the hands of a private corporation.  Together with your affiliates Total Intel and Greystone, you control a capacity that equals or surpasses the intelligence and Special Forces capabilities of most nations and some of this capacity is being marketed to Fortune 500 companies and foreign governments.   What prevents this from being used against US interests?  How do you evaluate a situation and a client before taking on a project?  Who will you categorically not work for? 

Jackson:  It is important to know that Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), while owned by Mr. Prince, is absolutely separate from the Blackwater family of businesses.  TIS markets itself primarily to corporate clients.  Again, Blackwater supports US national security and foreign policies.  We will not undertake work that is contrary to that.  Any transfer of defense articles to foreign actors requires licensure from the Departments of State and Commerce.  We evaluate clients through research and due diligence, we ensure they are legitimate actors who support freedom and security, and we only take on work that is sanctioned by the US Government.  I don’t run Greystone, but I can tell you that it is run by US citizens, who have the same commitment and the same export restrictions.


Hillhouse:  For most of the Iraq war, contract soldiers have operated in a legal vacuum.  Last October the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) seemed to be extended to contractors.  Is this the best way to introduce some level of legal accountability to contractors?

Jackson:  Actually, there are quite a few federal laws that regulate contractors.  The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) creates jurisdiction for federal court trials, and the wrongdoing itself is covered under statutes like the War Crimes Act, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the Anti-Torture Statute, the Defense Base Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and a whole raft of other domestic regulations, not to mention international prohibitions.  The issue has never been about regulation; rather, it has always been about a lack of enforcement.  I can’t put it any more simply—we don’t need a new law, we need to enforce the ones we have.  Blackwater has always supported increased enforcement of these existing laws.  Frankly, and this is a personal view, more money and more effort needs to be directed to that end in general, not just with regard to overseas contractors.  As far as the UCMJ, I understand the recent change has not yet been fully implemented, but as you know, there are serious legal and civil liberties concerns about trying civilians at military courts martial which are being explored in journals and the media.  There are any number of federal civilians who participate in US Government security operations who fall under federal court, not military, jurisdiction so it is difficult to see why private security professionals working in US Government security operations, particularly on non-DoD work, should fall under the UCMJ.  In the end though, we support holding contractors to account for any wrongdoing that may occur, under whatever appropriate vehicle it is done.


Hillhouse:  Given Blackwater’s experience in Iraq over the past four years, do you see any changes that could be made in how contractors are used that could improve the security situation? 

Jackson:  Overall, coordination between all US and allied actors in Iraq has improved.  Remember, our services are driven by demand created by an ever-changing threat environment.  Trying to create absolute boxes (except for legal ones) marginalizes the private sector’s greatest contributions: speed and flexibility.  We can support US interests in many circumstances but the policy decision to do so rest in the US Government.


Hillhouse:  Last year at the Special Operations Forces Exposition and Conference (SOFEX), Cofer Black offered a brigade-side private army to assist with humanitarian problems and others.  Has anyone contracted for this service?  Do you currently hold contracts with any foreign governments?

Jackson:  We are not a private army.  We do not undertake offensive missions.  Ambassador Black was speaking to a military audience and used the military term “brigade-size” to loosely convey how many people would be involved in an innovative concept that deserves discussion and debate.  The question is not, “why would we use the private sector in humanitarian operations”, but, “why aren’t we using the private sector to the fullest extent possible to reduce human suffering around the world?”  Member nations of the UN, NATO, AU, EU, etc. have their own defense interests to deal with before they commit troops to the ever-growing number of peace operations throughout the world.  Their constraints actually encourage bad actors to prosecute ethnic cleansing and genocide operations.  We live in a world where innocents are killed every day in large numbers, yet international organizations are sometimes so captivated by process that they seem to forget that the primary goal is to stop the violence first.  The private sector can play a significant role in that effort as well as help provide secure environments in which NGOs can deliver their desperately needed services.

We do have contracts with friendly foreign governments, all of which are accompanied by the necessary licenses and approvals by the US Government.


Hillhouse:  Coordination among private military corporations (PMCs) and between PMCs and the military in Iraq has been a longstanding issue.  Have the Aegis regional cooperation offices contributed to a solution?  What are the largest coordination issues currently?

Jackson:  The US Regional Cooperation Offices have dramatically improved over time.  The information provided and disseminated is invaluable.  The challenge now is to ensure the info makes it to the men and women on the ground every day, no matter where they’re operating.


Hillhouse:  How is your own armored vehicle, the Grizzly, working out?  Does the use of such a signature vehicle make your teams a more desirable target for insurgents?

Jackson:  The Grizzly is going into production now.  It is the most innovative personnel carrier-type armored vehicle designed to date, and it provides protection unmatched by pretty much anything but a tank.  Predicting who insurgents will target is a difficult task, but in today’s threat environment, I’d rather be in a Grizzly than any other APC out there.   


Hillhouse:  How has the role of the Little Birds Quick Reaction Force (QRF) team changed after the acquisition of the AB-212/412 fleet?

Jackson:  To protect operational security, we do not discuss our support operations.  We adjust our operations based on the threat.


Hillhouse:  I’ve written on this blog, “ Having a company like Blackwater around is like having a wolf as a house pet. They’ll break a lot, shit on a lot and probably eat your cat, but they can be very loyal, particularly when there’s a break-in.  And on 9/11, we had a hell of a break-in.  But then I love my cat...and that’s the dilemma we all have to figure out because BW isn’t going away and neither are the dangers of the post-9/11 world.”  Keeping with the metaphor, a lot of people are scared the wolf will eat the house cat.  Any comment? 

Jackson:  Sure, two comments actually.  First, the same thing can, and has, been said of the military itself.  At the end of the day, though, Americans have a long and honorable tradition of respect for elected government and the rule of law.  That is really what prevents our military from departing from their assigned role.  The majority of our security professionals are US veterans, and to claim they all checked those values at the door doesn’t make sense.  And while we don’t discriminate against legal immigrants, the remainder of the men and women who make up Blackwater are dedicated Americans who proudly support those traditions.  So, beyond the fact that our team is tiny compared to our own military which is over 1200 times bigger than we are, we’re citizens who strongly believe in democracy and the rule of law.

Second, as far as your metaphor itself, describing Blackwater as the wolf is probably not accurate because it implies a naturally sinister disposition and that is simply not true.  A sheepdog is a more appropriate description.  Indeed, there are wolves in the world and they plot every day to do harm to the peaceful sheep.  The sheep want peaceful and productive lives and to live freely and safely with other sheep. Unguarded, however, the sheep, who are tolerant, are easy prey for the wolf.  The sheepdog wants the same thing.  He wants to freely and peacefully coexist with the sheep, but he has a developed capacity to protect against the wolf when necessary.  The sheepdog is honorable, committed, and undeterred from his mission of defending when called upon the flock whose life he respects and admires. 



Gary Jackson is president of Blackwater USA.  Born in the UK, naturalized as a United States citizen in 1969, he has been with Blackwater for 9 years, basically since its inception. Enlisted in the Navy in 1975, he attended Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training in 1976.  His first duty station was SEAL Team ONE and he was commissioned as a Chief Warrant Officer in 1989. Mr. Jackson retired from the US Navy in 1998 after 23 years of service.  He assumed the position as president of Blackwater in October 2001.  He has been married for 28 years and has a son and daughter-in-law both in the US Air Force.


Jackson raises a very interesting point on contracting out humanitarian services in dangerous areas requiring a high degree of self protection to a highly trained and motivated private organization. With our reduced military forces, it would be best to have them concentrate on warfighting without the distraction of training for and executing humanitarian operations. Use of well trained and disciplined private sector "peacefighting" organizations provides an interesting solution to the need for humanitarian services anywhere in the world. Given the logistics and project management capabilities of some of these firms, such services could be a significant economic development factor for certain countries.

Sounds like they paid you to ask these softball questions. Bunch of lies (shocker) from the boob who heads BW. Yea, they're soooo legal. That's why everyone from ATF to FBI to Congress is investigating them right now for violations from arms trafficking to FAR violations. Oh and don't forget the 12 or so lawsuits they are fighting right now. Sounds like a bunch of patriotic "do-gooders". They have some true hero's working in the field. Too bad the "headshed" is a bunch of greedy, immoral war profiteers. Also - ever notice how no one ever leaves BW happy? Remember the woman who left BW a few months ago with allegations against management and then had a smear campaign launched against her? BW settled with her for over $800k in hush-money. The truth will escape eventually and when it does you will be seen as an accomplice in the BW propaganda machine....congrats.

Read the blog, then you'll know how ridiculous your accusations are. And take a look at the update in the post on the outsourcing of intel just below this.

I follow the industry closely and I'm smart enough not to waste anyone's time with questions that can't be answered due to multiple constraints.

Any light that can be shed on this industry is a good thing.

Knee-jerk polemics don't further the discussion, but shut down. The last thing we need in this country right now is more polarization.

In a way, Blackwater has developed kind of an interesting solution to the considerable shrinking of the American military that resulted from the politically motivated and sadly misconceived "peace dividend" after the dissolution of the Soviet communist experiment. Anticipating the need for well trained people who could be deployed overseas in units of various sizes and capabilities, BW hired the graduates and alumni of some of the most costly and valuable training and experience in the world and built to its vision. Now they offer the U.S. and others a capability that government, with its bureaucratic restrictions, cannot stand up in anywhere near the timeframe needed. Historically, private military complementary/supplementary forces have been around for centuries. After a hiatus in the 1900s, Blackwater has evolved the art form to a contemporary application.

R J,
When did Blackwater AB-212/412s? I am assuming you are referring to these:


Uh, you're buying into 9/11/01 being "Arab terrorists" that got the USAF to conveniently stand down and somehow got kerosene to bring two skyscrapers down at near free-fall speeds on their own footprints?

So how's that Kool-Aid, there, eh?


I only heard about them recently and those with whom I spoke were not helicopter guys, so they couldn't tell if they were AB-212s or AB-412s. They're tough to distinguish from one another.

I had always wondered how they got along without utility helos.


Nice softball questions. Asking how business is doing and fawning over the A-Team's new van is creepy and makes for some disingenuous "journalism."

Also your counter to your own spin is to "read the blog" aka: "read more spin"? The mind boggles.

Also a pro-tip: a single-paragraph comment in a blog isn't a "polemic". Great weasel word though!

I'm a blogger and a novelist, not a journalist or a political activist of any flavor. I'm also trained as a scholar.

My interest was to begin a dialog. You can't do that by attacking someone and giving him questions he can't answer--for whatever reasons. That would've shut things down immediately and to what end? I asked serious questions that I hoped, given his multiple constraints, that he could answer. You need to understand, they haven't done this before and from their perspective, I'm pretty far left.

And what I did get was a little glimpse into a world that we haven't been able to see into before.

I contacted BW about an interview because it was clear there needs to be more understanding of who these people are and what their company is about. They're not Bush's Praetorian Guard or a great threat to democracy like has been breathlessly claimed by a man with a very clear agenda-- and that agenda is not a commitment to figuring them out and presenting the truth. For example, Scahill has claimed the "leading executives are dedicated to a Christian-supremacist agenda." That's why I asked about hiring gays. We all know homosexuality is a hot-button issue for the right-wing Christian evangelicals and no executives with a "Christian- supremacist agenda" is going to say "To be frank, I really don’t care whether a given employee is gay. It doesn’t really have much to do with whether an individual can accomplish their job, and that’s our concern."

To write a novel about the outsourcing of military and intelligence and to bring to life characters in this world, I had to get to know their world as best possible. I've talked with men who worked for them on all levels. (Given their ethics of silence, the fact that I'm civilian and a female, that's no easy feat.) I've done the same with military and others who have interfaced with them. I've studied available secondary sources as well as their own writings and more. (And I'm sure to those in Moyock, this is starting to sound creepy!)

This doesn't mean I've slurped down Blackwater Kool-Aid, then rushed to the Pro-shop to buy more. All this means is I have some idea what they're about and nothing I knew fit with the conclusions being drawn by Scahill.

I indulged myself with the Grizzly question, strange as it sounds. That one was just for me, though I knew regular readers from the Pentagon, Iraq and Afghanistan would be interested.

For OUTSOURCED, I had to create a fictional private military corporation and equip it and I'm very meticulous. I work with an armorer as well as other experts on weapons, martial arts, explosives, aircraft, etc. And on this one piece of equipment I I made the call against my military advisor's advice when I decided to have my PMC use a Cougar, the non-BW branded Grizzly, a cutting-edge vehicle that uses South African technology to channel away and dissipate blasts. I was warned it would be too dangerous to have a signature vehicle like that would too much draw attention from the bad guys. And this decision was made before BW's Cougar order was announced and far before the BW deal with Force Protection to brand it as a Grizzly. I wasn't sure if it was in the field yet and I wanted to know their thinking on it and what their experience had been.

So your defence, while truck drivers are burnt alive and mercs are held unaccountable for human rights violations, is that you were trying to make nice... Ingratiate yourself with the estabalishment?


For some reason the old song "the freaks come out at night" keeps playing in my head!

With blog articles like that puff-piece about the cover-up on Intel-outsourcing it seems quite evident that you are just “backing the establishment.” ;)

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for quite some time since you have actually looked into some of the incredible changes going on with the intelligence community and defense establishment.

By-the-way Ryan, please learn to spell. “Defence” is spelled “defense” and “estabalishment” is correctly spelled as “establishment.” Given how spell checkers are built into just about everything, it’s pretty sad to see how so many people can’t seem to perform basic tasks such as writing a sentence.

Dr Hillhouse, thank you for posting an interesting interview.

I saw this as a link from Crooks and Liers. It was posted as a bunch of softball questions for BW.

What was the format for the interview? Was it a phone interview?

I did think some of the answers sounded like they came straight out of a company brochure. However, I still found the dialog to be very interesting.


The interview was conducted via email. I submitted written questions directly to Mr. Jackson and a few days later received the responses. They were published here unedited.


Intriguing interview. One thousand thanks.
Two issues stand out!

First is as Mr. Jackson points out, enforcement of existing laws would insure accountabilty, not only contractual in terms of completing, or succeeding in the specific missions, but also with regard to the wide and wild array of potential abuses.

Who or what exactly is responsible for enforcement of the existing laws, and why are they or that entity failing to act in accordance with those laws.

Why would PMC's operating in concert with our military in threat environments be held accounable to different standards
or laws?

Secondly, reading up on the Grizzly, it is astounding that a PMC is capable of organizing the design and delivering better armored vehicle than our own military, which brings up the issue of redundancy. Why are PMC's assuming the roles at tax payer expense that our military is doing, or formally did also at the tax payers expense? Why not eliminate the $600bn dollar defense industry completely in turn the entire operation over to PMC's. Or with regard to redundancy, and protecting the tax payers investments, - why is the government (seemingly behind our backs, or at least in the shadows) subbing these missions, operations, and duties off to PMC's at higher costs? What's the incentive or benefit to the tax payer?

The readers should remember to diversify your sources. I certainly hope nobody takes Jackson on his word alone. Supplemental research from many sources should go without question.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am under the assumption that oversight jurisdiction is divided by subject between a number of federal agencies. The ATF and FBI are responsible for making sure PMCs operations do not violate criminal law, etc. Whether that be weapons violations or other criminal acts, it falls to different agencies. This is where Jackson speaks of PMC violators being subject to Federal Law in Federal Courts.

Many have speculated on the privatization of the military and whether that is a good thing or not. It is of course possible to regulate a private military complex through the rule of law, however I would guess it to be more challenging that way. The argument tends to be that through demand, a private military would more effectively meet the needs of the market. This is possible, however it is also possible that a national military structure can achieve a similar effectiveness through flexibility. Ultimately the analysis of which way is most effective requires much more speculation and research than can be achieved here.

The last point in regards to the interview is that Jackson is ultimately correct in his statements. Whether you believe his statements reflect the actual policy that BW follows is irrelevant. If the stated purpose of BW is to support sanctioned US government projects, then we should accept that and ensure that our oversight confirms that purpose. It is indeed a well-known fact that the UN and other International Organizations are lacking for resources for enforcement actions. The UN has had numerous proposals of 3 divisions to be on standby for the operations of the United Nations discretion. If member states refuse to provide resources for these kinds of missions it is only logical for them to be outsourced to PMCs like BW.

If you don't want to critically analyze the issue of military privatization, I don't know why you are commenting on this blog. The actions of government and private corporations are meant to be scrutinized and the printed word should rarely be taken without question. But irrelevant criticisms of the way a question is asked doesn't further our understanding of the system and what its doing, it just slows everything down. I'm here to learn about PMCs and how they effect domestic and international politics and it is a pain in my ass having to wade through 10 meaningless comments just to get to the 4-5 that are interesting and stimulating questions.

But thanks RJ Hillhouse for the blog, it still provides me with some insight.

Why not ask about the inherent conflict between being a private corporation providing what used to be a public good? That conflict is at the heart of one of the pending lawsuits pending -- that Blackwater skimped on equipment and forced contractors to work under dangerous conditions. This is logical behavior from a corporate perspective -- keep costs down to raise the profit margin. Similar anecdotes about other PMCs are found in Peter Singer's book.

Dr. Hillhouse, thank you for the insights into Blackwater. I look forward to reading future posts and your book.

In regards to Ryan's comments, history has shown us time and again that any fairly revolutionary business concept or operation will endure a significant period of growing pains, whether it's Microsoft, Chevrolet or Blackwater.

I'm of the mind that many of the alleged misdeeds attributed to Blackwater can be chalked up to this period of growing pains, and as laws/statutes become solidified and policies for use of PMC become standardized, that you will no longer see these lawsuits, investigations, etc.

In my eyes, they weren't operating in an oversight vacuum by choice, but because as is usual, the U.S. Government dropped the ball in regards to providing comprehensive policy up front.

Lastly, in response to Ryan's comment "notice how noone ever leaves BW happy", I'm pretty sure that statement applies to just about every company in the world. However, since BW is in the media spotlight moreso than most other companies, we hear about these individuals as an exception, not the rule.


I think you nailed it.

I've heard from people at several companies and many from BW who have described the early days of the contracts in Iraq. Everyone was doing the best they could to make do and pull things together to get the job done.

I know many who've left Blackwater and others who keep working for them contract after contract. I once heard one guy go on and on about how we would never work for them again. His issue was that Blackwater wouldn't let him trick out his weapon and was strict about enforcing its own rules.

It seems very telling to me that he takes issues with being tried under the UCMJ, but apparently takes for granted not being tried under, say, Iraqi law. Given the recent stand-off with Iraqi authorities, I think this nonchalant attitude towards Iraqi sovereignty should be taken far more seriously. How is one to seriously suggest that there is a free and sovereign nation in Iraq when non-government personnel is completely and entirely exempt from Iraqi jurisdiction? It does everything to reinforce the impression that the Iraqi government is a puppet installed and controlled by the US which can get exasperated all it wants about problems but has no real power. And if the US and its agents does not respect it, how does one expect the locals to respect it? So all the finger-waggling and chiding the Iraqi government it should do more is really ridiculous while one is undermining its authority and clearly demonstrating that it is irrelevant.


In other words you actually interviewed Blackwater's well connected political-operative attorneys in washington rather than Jacksoon????

I wish you had disclosed that a little closer to the beginning of the article so I would have know to have not bothered reading any further...


It was good enough for the New York Times Week in Review. They excerpted it.


Dr. Hillhouse, I would like to say that this interview and it's associated responses has been useful to me. I am sorry for the flak you are recieving by a bunch of closed-minded individuals. I sometimes wish that the sheep dogs could trade roles with the sheep. But then there wouldn't be any more sheep to look after as they would all have been eaten. Thank you again for making this available.

e-mailing softball questions and receiving them days later?

Didn't you merely publish a press release?

What a waste.

Remember Jeff Gannon

Blackwater requires job applicants (among other things) to be free of domestic abuse/violence charges/convictions.

This miniscule requirement cannot stop worldwide evil or military authority abuses, of course.

But then again...

Privatization and outsourcing nat sec is a dicey business on a host of levels. The topography is made more complicated by ambiguous war-fighting ROE's and archaic nation- building practices (which haven't produced a win in sixty years). Those things are now in the hands of two layers of bureaucracy instead of one (gov alone): one is gov, hamstrung by snap- light waving PC rules which rarely serve our own national interests; the other is private companies moved principally by the mandate of profit. On a polite day, I'd call that an Odd Couple with conflicting mission statements operating in a shit storm.

We're forcibly merging violently incompatible war- fighting and nation- building practices through outsourced designees.

In a world where the balance of power is already shifting gravely to our disadvantage, and blatant anti-US allainces are common, this at least gives a few people assurance of a profit as the nation itself is manipulated into a back seat on the world- affairs bus.

But as the last six or seven decades of history seem to have proven, I guess you can get used to just about anything.

You can even start to favor the stench of a privvy if you stay there long enough.

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  • A tip of the hat to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock who inspired the name of this blog with his path-breaking 2005 article, "The Spy Who Billed Me."

    Shorrock has a dedicated web page on outsourcing in intel. It links to many of his articles which are must-reads for anyone interested in the privatization of intelligence.